Windows desktop VDI
This topic was created by David Dawson .
Windows desktop VDI
Hello. this is a question for a _potential_ project I'm about to embark on.
There's a charity that I have some association with, they've got around 30 windows desktops that are fast approaching the end of their working life.
They have to use windows for various reasons, but don't really have the cash to upgrade en masse.
So, I did a little pondering and thought, virtualisation.
If we could get a nice fat server (which we can) to host VMs, then the desktops can be kept, or gradually replaced with a rasberry pi or whatever.
The conundrum is what to install on the server. A full windows server 2012 is quite expensive, and I'm not sure if thats the way to go anyway (having very little recent experience of windows servers).
So, does anyone know what the best approach might be? My ideal would be something like openstack + some provisioning layer (thats free or cheap).
I've had a good look around and come across a few different projects, foss-cloud and its ilk.
I'm just wondering if anyone has any direct experience of VDI that could recommend a basic approach.
My ideal would be for some users to log into the thin client and be presented with their own desktop, including installed applications.
The other group of users should be given freshly minted VMs each time, although with their own desktop prefs from AD (or samba...)
Re: Windows desktop VDI
I did a similar project for a previous employer.
We had 2 servers running VMWare ESX (3.5 at the time), along with the AD & File servers as virtuals, alongside the clients. Obviously 2 servers are probably out of the price range here, the second was used for redundancy more than anything, each could run 100+ client VMs without breaking a sweat.
The only thing we had issues with was the SAN performance, but I'm guessing you'll be using local disks due to cost, so won't be an issue for you.
The original outlay was quite expensive, but when you factor in most servers are usually given a 5 year lifespan, it worked out cheaper in the long run as the dumb terminals never needed upgrading themselves.
There is the licencing issue, as the employer had an enterprise licence, these weren't an issue for us.
Re: Windows desktop VDI
Since it's for a non-profit, check out TechSoup.org. Great way to get the licensing you need for Hyper-V servers or just the fat Win7 VMs that run on whatever Virt solution you want.
If you need Windows, it's going to cost a chunk of money and that's pretty much the end of the story.
If you're wanting a separate desktop environment for every user, essentially shifting the location of all their work and apps to the server side, you're going to need a server 2008/2012 install and associated licence.
With regards to Openstack. That's not really going to help you a lot to my way of thinking. All you're getting from that is a virtualisation platform, to put your Windows server install in, you're still going to need a licence for the Windows install. The only benefit to Openstack over having your own metal server, is that you get cloudy resiliency.
If you were thinking of having 30 seperate Openstack VMs, each running a desktop OS?
I'm going to take a guess that the desktop PCs are running OEM licenced Windows installs, so you'll need new licences for that approach as well. 30 Windows desktop licences costs a lot more than 1 server licence I think.
I would suggest the best way to virtualise this scenario is a beefy server running Windows Server 2008 R2 (or 2012) and Remote Desktop services. Then using the 30 existing PCs essentially as thin clients as long as they're running XP or newer, strip them back so they're nothing but remote desktop client.
But I would be inclined to wonder if the cost of that, both financial and in development and set up time given your lack of experience, would actually be on par with or higher than the cost of simply buying newer desktop PCs.
Off the top of my head I'd guess that 30 PCs is just about borderline as to which is more cost effective. Especially if you can find a good deal for the PCs.
Of course, neither my suggested solution or buying new PCs are actually virtualisation.
But I still think it's the best way forward.
Windows Desktop VDI solution
I answer your question by pointing you to towards the POC Desktop, a company I am a Director of, which is not something I would normally do, but feel that we have a cost effective solution available for the Charity that you are associated to. I hope this is not in breach of any rules.
POC have recently launched a low cost hosted desktop solution enabling micro and small businesses to get the same hosted services normally only available to larger enterprise sized organistions. You can start with a single hosted desktop and add to this as many additional seats that you require, and each can be set up with the end user in mind. The POC solution means than you do not need to spend any time setting up you own virtualised servers, nor do you need to purchase or maintain any hardware, so can simply use your exiting laptops or PC's as thin client devices, or puchase new thin clients or Raspberry Pi's as Phil W suggests (provided that Citrix receiver has been installed on the Pi)
We are more than happy to set this Chartity up with a free pilot and can offer discounted Charity pricing, so please do get in touch.
0Virt, KVM & Spice
POC will look like a win7 desktop, but it will be server 2008 dressed up as a desktop because you can't license a hosted desktop VDI. Also it's at the end of your ADSL so subject to downtime, has ongoing costs, Govt's will be sniffing your traffic and if a third party host were to fail, how do you get your data? We've seen even large organisations almost held ransom by administrators keen to bring in funds for creditors.
Do you have charity pricing from MS, very similar to edu licensing, priced to _buy users_ when they move out into the business world. You needs software assurance, win enterprise and several different types of cal, but it is probably the cheapest paid VDI if your get the special pricing. Look at thinsoftinc.com and similar as alternatives.
I would try oVirt, windows desktops run well on KVM, Connect using spice or rdp, I've seen 30 running on a dual proc host fine. It's free, so give it a whirl.
Re: 0Virt, KVM & Spice
RE: Hosted VDI Licensing
Given that Windows 2008 R2 is essentially the same as Windows 7 underneath (To the point of sharing hotfixes and service packs), is it a really big deal? And there are huge advantages to hosted solutions for a charity with no onsite expertise - that's proven by the very virtue that this thread even exists...
Re: 0Virt, KVM & Spice
No help to the O.P. (my comment here, that is) but I think I've found my replacement for my 180 day Server 2012 Hyper-V test lab platform.
Nice one, Mr Anonymous.
Microsoft Licening for Charities (UK)
You don't say where in the world you are, but if you're in the UK (at least) then Microsoft licencing can be dirt cheap for charities. Take a look at http://www.ctxchange.org/ - as long as you meet the conditions, then it's £35 for Win Server 2012 Standard edition and £1 per CAL.
If you need IT help setting anything up, try asking for assistance at http://www.it4communities.org.uk/.
This appears on the main Reg website *now*?
This question was asked way back in March!
Re: This appears on the main Reg website *now*?
Fail? A little harsh, Jamie. Good things come to those who wait etcetera, etcetera.
Re: This appears on the main Reg website *now*?
Drew, I meant that if he hasn't sorted it by now, he would have failed! :)
Re: This appears on the main Reg website *now*?
Actually, this question has been much on my mind ever since I created the SO/HO network here and we gained tablets. So it isn't a FAIL here. The only real FAIL is Microsoft completely taking this off the table for small networks.
Beer (say a Newcastle) as Mr. Anonymous has earned it.
Consider all options
You pose a really interesting question, and very first question I would ask is... What level of availability and support do your charity require? Having worked in the not for profit sector a few times I've come to the realisation that actually maintaining availability (and subsequently operations is really important for cash strapped orgs) - one big fat server sounds great but it's all of your eggs in one big basket, two servers is better if the business can handle a 50% loss of service for a sustained period - otherwise I'd be looking at 3 or more to minimise the chances of loss. With that in mind you would probably want some level of shared, and critically resilient, storage AND backup - if your charity is anything like the places I've worked with previously then having critical data actually held on the desktop isn't unusual. An open source product such as OpenFiler running on a storage heavy server would provide a useful repository for virtual file-systems/disk images and wouldn't break the bank.
Ahead of all of that however there are probably a few things I would personally consider:
- What are the applications that your customers are running? Do they have specific applications that require Microsoft Windows on the desktop? Are they likely to respond well to running in a virtualised environment - i.e. are there any applications that require specific hardware (dongles etc)?
- If you are considering virtualisation for the desktop (even just 30 of them) then it's important to understand your performance requirements. I'm guessing, given the implied age of the desktop, that there aren't any "heavy" applications in use such as CAD tools - that said most charities these days make use of higher end graphics and marketing packages for event promotion - so again worth take a good hard look at your application landscape.
- Does the charity have any existing virtualisation for its servers? If so then it's worth considering if you have a pre-existing reference solution to build on so that you're not building up any divergence in supportability. If not then it's worth considering what benefits you could realise from having everything virtualised - just a thought.
- Are they absolutely married to Microsoft Windows as a desktop operating system? Regardless of whether you virtualise or maintain a more traditional desktop estate considering FOSS alternatives to both the core OS and the productivity applications is an absolute must. Both Ubuntu and LINUX Mint offer excellent desktop environments for end users - and to be honest, the growth and maturity of most business type applications for desktop LINUX is in a great place right now. If you're happy to support a LINUX environment then having an Ubuntu based environment gives you low(er) hardware requirements than Windows AND the server product offers virtualisation capabilities as well which could give you an easier path to VDI down the road.
- Have you checked whether you actually need to have ANYTHING on site (aside from a terminal to consume a desktop from). If you're considering the spend on new hardware, licences, backup and support then it's well worth doing the math to see if a hosted desktop with either a dedicated provider or creating a home baked solution in the Cloud might be worth a look. Is it even possible that your business uses so few "traditional" line of business applications that they could consume cloud based services instead. Most vendors of IaaS and SaaS provide good levels of discounts for charities - you may find that actually spending the effort to identify and integrate a series of 3rd party cloud solutions gives you better mileage, less of a management headache and (potentially) better availability than running your own solution.
I realise I've not really provided you with a "do this or that" type response but I hope that maybe some of those insights might held solidify which choices you make. Either way, good luck with your potential project.
try Ulteo OVD
I looked into doing somethingsimilar recently, and Ulteo OVD looked really interestin. It allowed a hybrid linux and windows virtual desktop setup, so you can serve up unavoidable windows apps (needs a terminal server) into a FOSS desktop.
I didn't go with this is the end, but I have issues with maintaining 6 old PC's that the users insist on making 'secure' by installing 7 flavours of anti-malware ;)
Re: try Ulteo OVD
"but I have issues with maintaining 6 old PC's that the users insist on making 'secure' by installing 7 flavours of anti-malware ;)"
Isn't that more of an admin/political problem? Those users shouldn't have admin rights in the first place - to be able to install the fake anti-malware. And if you can't muster the political will/clout or to take the admin rights away from them in the current setup - you are most likely going to have the same problem with any other setup you put in place.
Forget about your idea of Virtualisation, unless you want back to dumb graphics terminals, several single point of failure (server & switch) and needing fast network.
Unless the applications are all server centric SQL based. Starting point is What do they need to do (not even the applications).
99% of the time unless you need separate Windows Server Instances or separate instances on a workstation for development there is no point to virtualisation. It adds massive extra CPU and RAM overhead for 30 users. A linux server and Windows or Linux laptops makes more sense. If they "must have" a bunch of traditional Windows applications like Sage, Adobe xxxx, Act2000! etc they need windows. If it's spreadsheet, Letters, email and Internet and shared database/CMS on server, then Linux server and Linux laptops.
Virtualisation is useful for Windows servers, Test Labs and Development. Usually pointless waste of money and less reliable for anything else.
A Raspberry Pi with screen, mouse, keyboard, box, PSU etc can easily add up to the price of a cheap laptop.
Since you need screens, mouse, keyboard and something to drive them to the LAN, how does virtualisation save money?
Re: Stupid -- and given an answer that has not been thought through
1) They already have keyboards, mice, and screens on the current PCs. They may not be USB, and they might be old enough screens (even CRTs) so that power costs would make it sensible to replace them over time. Put these old bits together a set of PIs, you might have something. The laptops would bring cameras, which might be very handy for teleconferencing, so that's a counter-balance.
2) They've already been running with a Windows installation. Their data is embedded in applications, or at least file compatibility with a new application. You seem to think that there aren't costs to data conversion.
3) A VDI solution can bring qualitative jump in the ability of the organisation to support remote working -- without the complexity of remote file syncronization. This is not mentioned as a requirement, but most organisations would consider this a plus.
If You really need Windows, I would suggest Windows MultiPoint Server 2012. Licensing cost is massively cheaper than any other solution. End-user experience is Win 7/8 desktop ...
Check out the non-profit licenses from Microsoft
I am not at a non-profit myself, but was chatting about a month ago with someone at a technical briefing. IF I remember correctly, he said something like "It's cool being a non-profit, because we can get a Windows 2012 Data Center license for £450, and that allows unlimited VMs of Windows 2012 inside it using HyperV."
This could be completely wrong, but it's worth a check -- because if it is, you may have a set of VDI instances for very little licensing cost, so long as your application software doesn't do something silly like refuse to install on Windows Server.
Sounds over-complicated and high-risk, I'm afraid...
There are some additional risks that others have not mentioned - mostly related to that fact that you are looking at a customer-specific solution. Firstly, even as a volunteer your time is valuable and you are likely to spend many hours getting a setup based on creaky old desktops to work. Then there is the problem of the *sysadmin* becoming the single point of failure - i.e. it will be really hard for someone else to support a bespoke system that has been cunningly constructed to minimise costs, especially as it may be complex/creative and therefore time-consuming to document fully. And of coure the creaky old desktop hardware remain creaky old hardware.
This is a "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt" comment - I personally have made all the above mistakes (though not with VDI), and in the long run really regretted taking that approach.
If I were in your situation I'd look at replacing the desktops with three year old ex-corporate machines (Windows 7 licensed). If you can get Windows 7 licenses from CTX for a couple of pounds each, you could look for early Core2 machines that are contaminated with Vista licenses. The key thing here will be to get machines that are similar enough that you can support them with a single image. I think you have a fighting chance of finding *free* machines of this era - what you would have to do is upgrade the RAM and if possible the disk drive (which is the main performance bottle-neck in these systems). For older machines I'd also look at replacing the fans.
The standard-image desktop approach works well for us, as we can have a couple of machines on the shelf "ready to roll" so that if a machine dies when I'm not around, it can be swapped for a working one and no-one's work is affected (assuming they have played ball and kept their stuff on the server).
BTW for servers our entire setup is open-source, using DRBD for server-to-server replication (ask if you want more info). Servers for the users are virtualised using KVM, and virtual disks are mirrored by the VM hosts - so the users' servers don't need any funky configuration for data redundancy.
How about this ...
I'd be tempted to try something like this - you can do one old windows machine at a time.
- Clean cruft from hard disk, defrag, use GPARTED or similar to get it to work on a single partition with just a few GB spare
- Install some stable Linux on your server, Debian or Ubuntu 12LTS should be fine
- Install VirtualBox on that server and see if you can run your old machine successfully as a VM - you'll either convert the raw disk partition to a Virtual Disk Image (my pref) or use the existing raw image with the appropriate VMDK settings
- If that works, try running that vm image headless, and connecting to it with RDP
- And if that works, back up that image, nuke the original machine it came from, and install a lightweight linux with an RDP client.
M. Honman Called It: Avoid Complexity and High Risk
That was the voice of experience, from one who has also been there.
* High quality and even workstation class PCs are available super cheap coming off lease, typically with a nice Windows 7 Pro license on them. Just look for any Core 2 class processor and 4GB memory. Upgrade as you can.
* Finding someone to troubleshoot their way around a desktop is a lot easier than finding someone inexpensive to troubleshoot elaborate configurations. Virtualization, VDI and Cloudy products rarely mean lower TCO for desktop needs. Adding layers of complexity inherently increases risk of failure in a low-maintenance, lightly-monitored environment.
* Standardize the OS builds and buy a couple of spares to swap out when things go wrong. Your points of failure are distributed, and the swaps buy time to deal with failures.
* Configurations can be adapted to the idiosyncrasies of your requirements. VDI can provide that also, but has a higher cost, maintenance, complexity, etc.
* A high quality NAS, such as a Synology, will provide easy user/security management, lightweight network infrastructure services for a cohesive network and data sharing, and backup options. No server maintenance needed.
Summary: In this kind of environment, failures tend to have a lower impact on the organization. Competent "power users" can keep things running. And issues that would require a tech are still relatively simple, and therefore inexpensive to deal with. In short: Things will generally work, and you'll get to keep your evenings and weekends for yourself.
As someone who's been there too with charities, I repeat the warning about keeping things simple. Don't make the mistake of the aid workers who installed fancy electric pumps in the developing world, only to see them end up useless for lack of electricity, spare parts, etc. You have to install technology commensurate with the organization you're putting it in.
Does your charity have professional IT services available to fix things? Do they have a reliable network, both internal and external? If they don't have these basics, then don't give them a solution that needs them. How will new user accounts be added? How will they be shut down? Can people gain access to their stuff from outside the office? Will YOU be required to do all these mundane chores, and what kind of response time can you realistically provide?
Through hard lessons, I have come to some principles:
1. The less hardware in the office, the better. Ideally, you want to go serverless. If you MUST have a server, try for one that just serves files. You will still have to set up backups for it, of course.
2. Cloud services are great: professional-level IT services for pennies (or even free). Google Apps solved many problems at once (email servers, access from outside the office, large file sharing). Email was a BIG problem --- lost password, email client configuration, email password management, and of course SPAM. And it ALL went away in one fell swoop when we went to GMail.
3. Use consumer products as much as possible. They are VERY cheap: new computers can be had for under $300. More important than the dollar price, end users have a ghost of a chance of being able to do self-service if something goes wrong. We used to use Mac OS X Server with network logins. Now we use just basic consumer desktop machines with local logins. Whether we use Mac or PC on the desktop no longer matters. If they buy something from MicroCenter and put it on their desk, they can get it working. They just have to connect to our fileserver, to Google Drive, and then point their browser to GMail. They can get this stuff working without me, at least temporarily. Or an easy call over the phone.
4. Move to web-based databases. See above about eliminating servers from your office... CiviCRM is one free possibility, and there are many paid companies as well.
5. Desktop support is the achilles heel of charity IT. You pay top dollars for bottom skills. Anything that can be administered remotely, you can pay a lot less for better skills. And it's often so easy to do, you can just do what they need done during a coffee break. One more reason to go serverless in the office.
6. Remember that your time IS valuable. A new computer is $300. Setting up a new computer can cost a lot more than that, if you don't keep things simple. Free hardware isn't as much of an asset as you'd think at first, unless you have a VERY quick way to turn it into USEFUL hardware with proper stuff installed. Old hardware is deadly because installs are slower, and thus more costly for you in the end than just buying something new that works.
7. Do anything to avoid viruses. Each virus infection requires full rebuilds, see the costs in (6). We've had good luck with Macs, at least, which somewhat justifies their high price. Linux is better on this front, of course, if you can make it work.
8. Tech Soup is a good place for licensed software. But even better is software that doesn't need licensing. It's not just that it's free --- but also you avoid the hassle of managing license keys.
Someone else has already made the comment about "cloudy" providers - that you may find yourself held to ransom by administrators (not the system type :-) ) or other bean counters in the event of bankruptcy or administration. Unlikely, I'd admit, in Google's case, but not impossible.
If you Go Google, there's the not-insignificant risk that they'll drop an app you've become reliant on. This absolutely MUST be factored into the analysis.
I challenge you, as a small business, to get sufficient information from a cloudy provider to enable you to carry out due diligence on their system security and resilience. If you're content to believe SalesSpeak, so be it.
Finally - your comments about Google Mail. Sure, the Spam disappears. In my experience, though, so does far too much of the email you need. Their false positive hit is far, far, far too high for a professional email system - and where's the sense in having to plough through the Spam folder looking for the emails you missed - might as well have put the Spam in the inbox in the first place. I speak as one who, with good exim+sa-exm and amavis, manages <1% false negatives and 0 (yes, 0) false positives. Which is absolutely crucial for my people. And I get the bizarre pleasure of teergrubing the spammers :-)
Big thumbs up for CiviCRM.
It does take a while to get into, but as there is never enough time to do everything it is better to invest the time that there is into high-level work that benefits the entire organisation than one-by-one PC-shop jobs.
Some other things we have been using:
* email - Zimbra (not perfectly happy with it)
* files - OwnCloud (just getting into it, if it works as adertised it should be possible to sync the desktop and my Docs of each PC)
* server backup - BoxBackup
All of these things could run on a local server or in a data centre, depending on the size & sophistication of the organisation (and its Internet links!)
The biggest problem has been rollout, training, and subsequent hand-holding.
I agree. There seems to be a trend right now where people will give up any long term advantages in return for saving a few quick pennies by using cloud services. Yes, cloud services do have advantages. But nobody seems to be thinking twice about the advantage of having your *own* hardware and software in house - with full control over it. Cloud providers seem to be banking exactly on this sort of thinking - and right now they are offering dirt cheap or even free services. What will you do when the market matures and they figure they can ratchet up the prices and squeeze your balls? Or vice-versa - when they decide it is not in *their* interest any more to provide a certain service - which you have become reliant on? Or when a provider goes bust and you can't retrieve your data from the cloud? Or when a provider looses your data and then hides behind the cleverly written license you agreed with - which absolves them of any responsibility. And don't kid yourself - you are not going to get high levels of agreed SLA's out of dirt cheap or free services. How easy (and cheap) will it be to migrate those gigabytes of email away from the cloud if you need to - over a messily ADSL connection? Been there, done it - and wasted good heaps of my life on it. How about all that data stored in some online crm system - which is not compatible with the next system you might have to move to because the provider has become to expensive? How about when the provider decides overnight to upgrade the platform/online software to some newer version which drops features you need, or has some shitty interface - and you don't have any say in it. Yahoo email or Hotmail/Outlook.com is one simple example - where many of my users get driven nuts by the either continuously changing interface in one case, or complete and radical change in the other case, without having any say in it. For good or for worse - with your inhouse server and hardware - you can still run software versions from year dot (with the corresponding risks/maintenance involved) - if that's what you really want/need to do and/or are masochistic/cash strapped enough. With cloud stuff - that decision is not yours anymore. Maybe people should take a longer and harder look at the various implications of buying into cloud services - than just listening to the marking blurb or eying out the money they save in the short term.
There seems to be a trend right now where people will give up any long term advantages in return for saving a few quick pennies by using cloud services1. Yes, cloud services do have advantages. But nobody seems to be thinking twice about the advantage of having your *own* hardware and software in house - with full control over it2.
Obviously, you are someone who has been around this block at least once.
1Typified by the ignorant bean counter damagement mentality.
2 Owning your OWN hardware and having under YOUR control means that YOU KNOW who has access to that equipment and data. In light of the recent NSA spying revelations, would it not be prudent to know who can examine your data. If those 3 letter agencies have to enter your property to "see" your data; then you know that they are looking at you.
I would sort out the base problem
I would sort out the base problem which is the reliance on MS. Once you look at it you will be open to a range of slick, clean and more user friendly applications.
Of course, once you're away from the reliance on MS then there are a range of FLOSS solutions available for the hardware.
Sexy solution, but not the right problem for it
For some reason, any posts advocating a complete rethink get downvoted, but it's important enough to take the -1 to reiterate I think.
If you were/are a full-time permanent employee with a full time permanent assistant to train up and provide holiday and sickness cover, then maybe would be a fun solution, done correctly. However, the fact that it's a small charity suggests you're not going to have a proper IT department with modern skills.
To save time and money, standardised hardware is a good idea, to keep on propping up any dying machines, so the suggestion of ex-lease boxes sounds very viable (and cheap), then you can use Casper/similar to create and distribute a global desktop, making the machines more or less interchangeable. Centralise storage for important documents and let the cat photos stay on local disk, maybe.
Using Google Apps might also be a good way forward. Yes, it is vendor lock-in, but with massive power and support to cover the bulk of the normal IT dept grief, leaving you free to have a life, especially if you can make the network access robust enough. Could be an inexpensive and extremely rugged solution, and even use a Linux or dumb desktop for those users without specific Windows needs (although there will be some)
Budget for a server why not go buget pc...
I'm a recycler/refubisher.
MS does W7 and Office 2007 licences charities etc for $6 USD each via its Citizenship licenses.
We just bought some ex corporate Lenovo X61 laptops (Core 2, 2Gb, 80Gb HDD) for £20 each
So for £1000 plus labour, you could have a W7/Office equipped core 2 duo for each user. WAY cheaper than a go faster Server 2012 piece of tin!
Contact your local MS Registered refurbisher....
This mostly depends on type of applications users are running today. Here is what I have found for common Windows deskop with some free tools like Adobe Reader, bulzip, Chrome and other free stuff + Microsoft Office or OpenOfffice/LibreOffice of Softmaker Office.
I have done great deal of research here and findings for SMB sector in Estern Europe are like this:
- VDI licence from Microsft @ 100$ would add $3000 per year
- Kaviza (Citrix VDI-in-the-Box) is something They can use
- Parallels Containers for Windows
- Graphon GoGlobal
And you convert all your PC in to thin clients with http://www.stratodesk.at/products/repurpose-your-pcs
However, in order to give you solution, you need to post what apps are you running and what changes are you willling to make (changes like dumping MS Office in favor or some other office packages).
To run this, you need only 4c server with some ram.
I would honestly look at just getting some cheaper ex-corporate PC. As somebody else mentioned, you should be able to pick up Core2Duo PC with 4GB at reasonable price.
The is a lot of complexity in VDI and unless you have several people who can support it I would stay clear.
This is a very interesting discussion -
- maybe a different format (IRC chat, G+ hangout etc) would be a useful way for a few of us to get together and thrash out a few ideas?
If you are a nonprofit in the US with a 501(3)(c) check out techsoup.org for charitable pricing of software and some hardware. Techsoup partners with some 57 technology companies that provide greatly reduced pricing for those that are eligible. Microsoft, Citrix, and Cisco are among the partners.
FWIW, I am the volunteer IT dept of a small nonprofit (25 desktops, a NAS, and a point of sale system) and I whole heartedly agree with those above that eschew complexity.
Are you some sort of educational charity ?
If so, you might want to join CAS, where we help schools etc with IT issues
Depending on what software they need to run, it may run quite nicely using Remote Desktop on Server 2008 or 2012. The licensing is a capital cost, and is significantly cheaper than VDI. It also doesn't require nearly as much processing horsepower or RAM. A Server 2012 standard license lets you run two virtual copies on the hardware, so you can use one for the server, and one for hosting clients with only a single license.
thin clients only with fascist sysadmin
Thin clients work ok in an enterprise situation where everyone is told exactly what they may do. And perhaps using a linux based solution would be an advantage there if it meant nobody understood their environment well enough to request changes.
But if you don't have an anal-retentive sysadmin who refuses to make any changes or provide any services, and cannot be countered, stay away from thin clients.
Even pretending that your clients will be locked down is no protection if management or workers are allowed to request changes.
Otherwise you wind up with 30 workers all wanting to cusomise the server -- where their environment runs -- and that is not a happy experience.
Forget Virtualisation - Embrace Cloud
A nice fat Server + VMware will cost more than your dozen or so desktops - virtualisation stacks up with higher numbers than this.
I suggest you look at Google Docs or similar - then your office suite becomes available from any device; an old PC, a tablet, a new PC, a shared PC. Perhaps not all employees need access to a PC all the time, perhaps you only need 1/4 Desktop PCs and share the facility among staff. Perhaps some need a PC, others can access docs using the tablet device that they already own?
If David is advising a UK charity, then the Charities Technology Exchange is a good place to go for discounted software.
Currently advertising server 2012 standard for £34.
Open Source VDI
I am not trying to be a Microsoft evangelist here, but I think that you are not looking at the whole solution. You state that using a Microsoft server solution is expensive, well it can be but Microsoft does have massive discounts on licensing for registered charities. Also have you thought about the total cost of ownership? Many of the Open source solutions are free to install but to get support or upgrades can cost much more. Have you thought about after care with getting either full time employees or consultants, they will cost more than a windows admin or support will cost. I am not saying that Open Source is bad or that it does not have its place in solutions, because it does. Sometimes it is better to invest in a common technology for the long term which will keep both support costs down and the end users comfortable in using industry standard desktops or kit.
As a disclaimer I do IT Management consultancy for Charities and Retail organizations.
If you need any assistance please feel free to contact me www.tugboat-tek.com
Re: Open Source VDI
Have a look at Microsoft Registered/Authorised Refurbishers, if you find one that is appropriately equipped and you don't mind second-hand machines. They also have special charity licences.
CTX charity ordering
Contact CTX by web or phone. They have several partners including Microsoft and Cisco and Adobe. MS allow 10 titles, 50 copies max each every 2 years. A license would be approx £60 instead of £600. This inc Software Assurance. You can also downgrade eg 2012 to 2008 for terminal server or Exchange 2013 to 2010. I deal with several clients which are charities and get them to order. Another example Windows 8 for £8
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